I had just begun a dignified rebuke, for Michael’s language was inexcusable, when it flashed upon me that we had been, indeed, duped.
“Ah,” I cried, in my fury, “of course we were taken in! Of course his son was the lame hostler, the very prize we expected to bag! O Lord! what will we say to my lady? We are precious sharp! I ought to have known better. That stuff he told us! Langlois, pshaw, Berri—pouf! A Berri never married a Langlois, and I might have remembered that Gluck wasn’t assassinated by a jealous duke. What shall we do?”
We all stood in the middle of the road, gazing stupidly at the lame dog that gave us the clue. Then Arnold timidly suggested:—
“Hadn’t we better go back to the inn?”
Instantly our horses’ heads were turned and we galloped madly back on our old tracks. Not a word was uttered until we reined up in front of the lonely house, which looked more haunted by daylight than it did the night before.
“What did I tell you?” suddenly cried Michael.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Over there, you blind bat!” he said, coarsely and impatiently; and pulling out his pistol he fired thrice, and a low, melodious sound followed the reports of his weapon. When the smoke cleared away I saw that he had hit an old harpsichord which stood against a tree, facing the house.
“The ghost!” we yelled, and then we laughed consumedly. But the shots that winged the old-fashioned instrument had a greater result. The fat host appeared on the edge of the forest, and he waved a large napkin as a flag of truce. With him was the lame hostler.
“Mercy, gentlemen, mercy, we beseech you!” he cried, and we soon surrounded both and bound them securely.
“You will pay dearly for the trick you put upon us, my man,” said Michael, grimly, and, walking our horses, we went by easy stages toward the castle, towing our prisoners along.
When I fetched the lame man to my lady, her face glowed with joy, and her Parisian eyes grew brilliant with victory.
“So you tried to escape?” she cruelly asked of the poor, cowering wretch. “You will never get another chance, I’ll warrant me. Go, let the servants put you to work in the large music room first. Begin with the grands, then follow with the uprights. Thank you, gentlemen both, for the courage and finesse you displayed in this desperate quest. I’ll see that you are both suitably rewarded.” I fancied that Michael regarded me sardonically, but he held his peace about the night’s adventures.
We had indeed reason to feel flattered at the success of the dangerous expedition. Had we not captured, more by sheer good luck than strategy, the only piano-tuner in mediaeval France?
THE TRAGIC WALL
BY THE DARK POOL